NITRO, W.Va. — The vice president of Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Nitro says he’s confident an agreement can be reached with the United Steelworkers Union when it comes to health insurance for more than 300 casino workers.

Dan Adkins tells MetroNews the USW Local 14614-F8 vote last Friday to authorize a strike surprised him.

“I can’t imagine that the bulk of that bargaining unit, the union employees out there, would actually walk out to what amounts to about $300 a year. I’m pretty comfortable we are going to be okay,” Adkins said.

Mardi Gras currently pays 90 percent of the workers’ health insurance premiums. They’ve asked workers to pick up the bulk of an increase, which would result in a 75/25 split for the premium cost, Adkins said.

“Premiums are skyrocketing. What’s happening in this country with healthcare is almost disastrous,” Adkins said. “Our premium went way up and we asked our employees to pay what is close to the national average and I guess they aren’t too happy about that.”

The union rejected the proposal in a 236-1 vote and followed that with a vote to authorize a strike.

“Our members want to work, they have family, but they realize what’s at stake. They’ve gone without a raise (since 2011). Gaming has had some (problems) and we’ve tucked our shirttails in too, tightened our belts too, but we can’t take all the brunt,” Local union president Ron Brady told MetroNews Saturday.

The two sides are scheduled to sit down again Tuesday. Adkins is hoping for a better outcome. He doesn’t think the company is asking for too much.

“Some of these new jobs that were created, the (table games) dealer jobs out there, some of these people are making 50, 60, 70-thousand dollars a year and that’s a pretty high wage anywhere in the country,” Adkins said. “I just can’t imagine these employees aren’t appreciative of that are going to go on strike for $300 a year. It would boggle the mind.”

The union has also expressed concern about proposed language that would eliminate the possibility of negotiating the health care issue in years to come.

“In the future all the company would be required to offer is the bare minimum under the law,” Brady said.

The casino would stay open if there were to be a strike, Adkins said.

“It’s not that critical a situation for us. I’ve just personally known some of these employees for almost 27 years and I just hate to see this happening for the first time at Mardi Gras, but I think it will be fine,” Adkins said.

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